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Irish Conservative Forces must not be allowed block spending for family planning in developing countries

By December 3, 2002News

– Release date: 03 December 2002

The Irish Family Planning Association has said that conservative forces in Ireland who are attempting to pressurise the Government and the EU into withdrawing support for sexual and reproductive health programmes in developing countries were putting the lives of woman and children at risk.

Speaking at the launch of a major report by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA),the Chief Executive of the IFPA, Catherine Heaney said (today, 3.12.02), "a small, but vocal force in Ireland is actively working to pressurise the Irish Government into defunding the United Nations Population Fund. In addition, at EU level they are asserting pressure on MEPs to block a 32 million euro budget for UNFPA and the International Planned Parenthood Federation. This campaign in Europe is being actively lead by Irish MEP, Dana Rosemary Scallon.

"It is critical that this resistance to Government and EU support for family planning and sexual health programmes in developing countries is not allowed to gain momentum. A campaign of misinformation and spurious allegations has already resulted in the withdrawal of US funding to the tune of $34 million for the UNFPA this year. If this funding was released, it could have prevented almost 5,000 maternal deaths, 2 million unwanted pregnancies and 77,000 infant and child deaths.

"MEP Scallon and her supporters have no basis for linking the work of UNFPA with coercive policies in China. A number of fact-finding missions, including an official independent assessment team from the US Administration, have established that there is no evidence to substantiate these allegations.

"It is important that those seeking to undermine support for family planning and reproductive health programmes in developing countries realise that they are seeking to increase maternal and child mortality as well as contribute to an increase in unsafe and induced abortions.

"The Irish Government's role in supporting family planning programmes in the face of resistance must be commended. It is particularly heartening to note that the Taoiseach has promised an increase in support for UNFPA in 2003, despite the resistance campaigns and pressure on the finances," added Ms Heaney.